Wearing 25 kilos of body protection, Christobal Huet starts his training as goalkeeper of the Fribourg ice hockey team in Switzerland. He gives an impression of explosive power speeding over the ice. But this is a very different kind of ice from that which Huet has skated on before — it never melts, because it is synthetic.
The experienced hockey player is impressed: “It feels like being on real ice. Anyway, for a goalkeeper, when you stop,accelerate, it’s the same, even sliding on your knees, it’s perfect. So it’s really like ice.”
The inventor of this synthetic ice, Bertrand Pittet, is from Fribourg and an ice hockey fan. An amateur goalkeeper himself, he bought a mini plastic ice rink for training but was not impressed by it. So he decided to make something better.
Bertrand Pittet explained his creation to euronews: “It’s a polymer, I won’t tell you exactly what it’s made of because that’s a manufacturing secret. But the big advantage is that it’s completely dry. It’s extremely hard and resists damage very well, which is the advantage. Also, it’s very fine and light.”
A DIY enthusiast, Bertrand Pittet has also made other inventions. He is currently working on a machine that can sharpen skates without the skater having to take them off.
He told up of his passion: “As long as I can remember, I always wanted to make the things I wanted to have. I never wanted to buy things which I could make myself. It all started with Lego, Meccano, the wood in my father’s carpentry workshop.”
Today he makes a living out of his inventions and has come a long way from those early efforts: “Often at the beginning, inventing something is a personal challenge. You think, I wonder if I could invent that? Then you step back a bit and ask yourself, but could there be a commercial use for this? Because if I need this, maybe other people would also find it useful. And then you have to evaluate the market potential of the idea.”
His synthetic ice has already been very successful. Orders have come in from Switzerland, France, Scandinavia and Canada. The Geneva Servette ice hockey club were the first to order the new ice and they say they have never regretted it.